Australia must attack Kiwi spin pair

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia have so few accomplishments in T20 that tomorrow’s tri-series final against New Zealand is significant. Getting after the Kiwi spinners will be key to victory.

    Despite never having produced a champion spin bowler in their cricketing history, New Zealand currently have the second-strongest spin unit in T20s, after India, thanks to the presence of Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi.

    Left-arm finger spinner Santner is the number one ranked international T20 bowler in the world, and leg spinner Sodhi is close behind him in third.

    While I rate Indian wrist spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as the world’s best T20 spin duo, Santner and Sodhi are the top pairing according to the ICC rankings.

    New Zealand were the number one ranked Twenty20 team in the world only a few weeks ago, builing that success on the control and wicket-taking power offered by Santner and Sodhi.

    So often in the past two years, those spinners have combined to halt the momentum of their opponents in the middle overs.

    Australia are well aware of this, having been derailed by Santner and Sodhi in the last World T20, when that pair combined to take 3-44 from their eight overs as the Aussies failed to complete a modest chase of 143.

    Australia’s batsmen were far too defensive against Santner and Sodhi in that match, scoring just three boundaries from their eight overs. That was indicative of a wider problem for the Aussies across all white-ball cricket in recent years – too often they’ve allowed opposition spinners to dictate terms.

    It’s been a different story in this tri-series, as the Australian batsmen have made a point of putting pressure on the tweakers. Against Australia, Santner and Sodhi have combined figures of 1-79 from nine overs in this series, an economy rate of 8.8rpo, while English spin pair Adil Rashid and Liam Dawson have been taken for 1-97 from ten overs by the Aussies.

    Santner and Sodhi have given up ten boundaries from their nine overs in an indication of the way Australia have tried to collar them. Even still, Sodhi was the best of the Kiwi bowlers as Australia completed a record chase of 244 in Auckland.

    New Zealand’s four quicks incredibly gave up 210 runs from 14.5 overs in that match, at an astonishing economy rate of 14.2rpo. Australia’s batsmen will be confident of again hammering the pacemen, which makes the roles of Santner and Sodhi all the more important.

    While Sodhi has looked in decent touch this series, Santner has laboured. The 26-year-old’s great strength is his precision and frugality. Both attributes have been absent in this series to date, with Santner leaking 81 runs from his eight overs.

    The Kiwi pacemen rely on Santner and Sodhi to choke the run rate, which in turn earns wickets for the quicks as they become the target of heightened aggression from the batsmen. When Santner and Sodhi aren’t effective, New Zealand do not seem to have a Plan B – their bowling strategy falls apart.

    In Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and David Warner, Australia have three of the most brutal hitters of spin in the format. Maxwell and Finch are placed in the middle order specifically to exploit their rare ability to dispatch tweakers from ball one.

    That will be no easy task, however, if Santner and Sodhi bowl as well tomorrow as they have so regularly in the past two years. Their battle with the ballistic Australian batting line-up will decide this tri-series final.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • February 20th 2018 @ 7:36am
      Targa said | February 20th 2018 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      We produced Clarrie Grimmett. It will be the same pitch as Friday night so Williamson’s offies and Chapman’s SLAs could be an option too

      • Columnist

        February 20th 2018 @ 9:59am
        Ronan O'Connell said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        Hi Targa, I didn’t realise Grimmett was a Kiwi, what an extraordinary spinner he was – 1,424 first class wickets!

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 2:44pm
        Fox Saker said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

      • Roar Guru

        February 20th 2018 @ 2:44pm
        Fox Saker said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

        You took the words right out of mouth Targa and it surprising how many Australians don’t know Grimmett was a born and bred Kiwi and he didn’t leave NZ as baby either. He went to Australia – among other things – because NZ at the time, didn’t play test cricket.

        In NZ he is regarded as a kiwi cricketer who played for Australia because they had no international status at that time and I don’t think that is unreasonable given the circumstances.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 9:22am
      Me said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Thanks Ronan. I still find it amazing and pleasing that slow bowlers can be the keys in this format particularly good leg spinners as it makes right handers hit against the spin. I thought by now that Australia would have heaps of good leggies as a result of lots of juniors wanting to emulate Warne but shows what a hard craft it is to master. Hopefully Pope will continue his development.

      • Columnist

        February 20th 2018 @ 10:02am
        Ronan O'Connell said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        I still think Australia are missing a trick by not playing Zampa to complement Agar.

        Zampa’s career records in T20 are sensational – overall record of 86 wickets at 20 (economy 7.05rpo) and record for Australia of 17 wickets at 15 (economy 6.00rpo).

        Zampa has been struggling in ODIs but T20 has always been easily his best format, he’s one of the elite T20 leggies in the world.

        • Roar Guru

          February 20th 2018 @ 2:48pm
          Fox Saker said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          ‘I still think Australia are missing a trick by not playing Zampa to complement Agar.’

          Yeah spot on Ronan – a strange one that one.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 7:38am
          Me said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

          Ronan – You make a strong case for Zampa as those numbers are very persuasive. He didn’t really stand out in only playing 5 BBL games which probably hasn’t helped his cause.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 9:38am
      Ozibatla said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      I quite like the look of Sodhi. Hes a good leg spinner with pretty good control. Saw him genuinely rip a couple against the Poms the other day which is good to see in the T20 format.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 11:01am
      Joe Bell said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      I know you’re referring to duos but Rashid Khan has an extremely strong case as the best T20 spinner going around at the moment

      • Columnist

        February 20th 2018 @ 1:33pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

        Joe I think Rashid Khan is the best limited overs spinner in the world, he’s an asbolute freak.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 11:50am
      Tristan said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:50am | ! Report

      No champion spinners? Aside from Grimmett, as mentioned – how about Dan Vettori????

    • February 20th 2018 @ 11:58am
      Ozibatla said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

      Yep Vettori was world class. The best conventional finger spinner Ive seen along with Swann and he didnt turn it as much as Swann. Great guile and subtlty.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 12:08pm
        Shane Thompson said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        Dan Vetorri. Second highest kiwi wicket taker in tests and highest in IDI. Captain in all forms . Batting 30.
        Your correspondent shows great lack of knowledge in stating there has never been a decent Kiwi spinner.

      • Columnist

        February 20th 2018 @ 12:25pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        Vettori was a very good player for NZ but he averaged 34 with the ball in Tests and 32 in ODIs – he wasn’t a “champion” by my definition, in the same way I wouldn’t rate someone like Lyon a “champion”.

        During his career Vettori wasn’t in the same league as the likes of Warne, Kumble, Murali, Saqlain – those guys were “champion” spinners to me.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 12:33pm
          Tristan said | February 20th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

          While I wouldn’t include Vettori in that company, I think his numbers are a tad inflated, given he was often the sole world class bowler in the attacks he played in – teams could (and did) wait him out, then scored freely against other bowlers (or the neverending collection of medium pace allrounders NZ seemed to have in the 90s/00s).

          • Columnist

            February 20th 2018 @ 1:29pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

            That’s a fair point Tristan, but Hadlee didn’t have a great NZ attack around him and yet he still dominated all over the world.

            That’s one mark of a “champion” bowler to me – that they’ll still be very effective even if they don’t have really good bowlers around them.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2018 @ 2:40pm
              Fox Saker said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

              I think Vettori changed his bowling when the idiot at NZ cricket band Shane Bond for nearly two years for playing in Indian league and Carins had retired – and he admitted he deliberately made himself a holding bowler without Bond there.

              And Hadlee had a better attack around him than Vettori for most of his career. Hadlee believed Chatfield to be a great foil for him because he was so hard to get away with his nagging line and length with RPO of just 2.29. And John Bracewell was not the worst spinner either on his day and Lance Cairns with those big inswingers was hardly rubbish.

              Vettori for me is one of games great All Rounder spinners with 6 test centuries and 23 x 50’s – Not many genuine front line spinners have that all round record. In those terms he was one of games best.

              • February 20th 2018 @ 4:20pm
                spruce moose said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

                A bit revisionist Fox.

                Shane Bond had all but given up test cricket anyway because of his injuries.

            • February 20th 2018 @ 4:19pm
              spruce moose said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

              Only 2 left arm spinners have 300+ wickets Ronan. Herath and Vettori.

              It’s a pretty solid effort by him. His 34 average is pretty much on par with other left arm finger spinners.

              Considering they barely get a look in in test cricket, I think we can applaud him for getting that far.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 1:12pm
        jameswm said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

        Vettori better than Lyon?

        Vettori – 362 wickets in 113 tests, ave 34.3, S/R 79.5
        Lyon – 290 wickets in 74 tests, ave 31.6 and S/R 61.8

        Lyon has a clearly better record.

        And for the record Swann – 255 wickets in 60 tests, ave 29.96, S/R 60.1. On a par with Lyon. We do remember though how he went in Australia, which is 22 wickets in 8 tests, ave 52.6. Ouch. And hence why Aussies don’t rate him so highly.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 3:36pm
          Brian said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

          Lyon been really great but recently we have had a lot of downhill skiers lately. Great in Australia but terrible overseas. For me for Lyon, Warner and even Smith to be great they really need to win a series in India or England.

          I would rather the Poms record of winning one Ashes here and getting thrashed 3 times rather then ours of losing 4 closer series.

          Lyon was a better Test bowler then Vettori though not for ODI.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 6:25pm
            jameswm said | February 20th 2018 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

            How does Lyon need the team to win a series in England or India for him to be great? Lyon has 34 wickets at 30 in India, and 25 wickets at 30 in England.

            He has 139 wickets at 33 at home.

            So he is better in those 2 countries than at home.

            And Smith averages 57 away from home. Incredible stuff. Just that he’s even more incredible at home, where he averages 77. He averages over 100 at home against India, Pakistan and WI, and 65 against England.

            And away, he averages over 100 against NZ and WI, and 60+ in India and SA.

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